Pressure grows on David Cameron to ditch Cable
The Mole: ‘Cut the Cable’ is the message from Tory grassroots as Osborne rejects go-slow on cuts
David Cameron yesterday urged his party not to gloat over their success at the expense of the Liberal Democrats, but the message has gone unheeded by George Osborne, his chancellor.
Osborne flouted his boss's 'don't get cocky' rule on the Andrew Marr Show by making it clear he thought the Tories had every right to celebrate pulling off the rare feat of increasing their share of the vote in last week's local elections compared to last year's general election.
Osborne - who has been battling behind the scenes for a much more robust approach to the Tories' Liberal Democrat partners in the coalition - also gave two fingers to the demands by the Liberal Democrats for the timetable for the deficit reduction to be slowed down.
A curb on the cuts in public spending is one of the key demands being made by the likes of business secretary Vince Cable to enable the Lib Dems to distance themselves from the Tories after being deserted spectacularly by their own supporters. But Osborne flatly rejected the idea, saying such a move would be disastrous and open Britain to the kind of speculation that has undermined confidence in Spain, Greece and Portugal.
Despite Osborne's tough stance, Cameron is determined to give Nick Clegg more room to say nasty things about the Tories, if it helps him secure his own position with his own party after last week's drubbing for the Lib Dems in the town hall elections and the Alternative Vote referendum.
Clegg - who the Mole revealed on Saturday is being urged to take on the Health Secretary portfolio - was given the latitude to warn on the Marr show that he would veto the NHS Bill, if the health reforms were not watered down to his liking.
He also told Marr show he would "never, never, never" join the Conservatives, adding: "I will be carried out in my coffin as a card-carrying Liberal Democrat."
However, Cameron's efforts to bend over backwards to keep the Lib Dems inside the coalition are causing extreme strains with his own side, and not just with Osborne, a hawk on the relations with the Lib Dems.
Deborah Thomas, the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for Twickenham, where she challenged Vince Cable at the last election, has called on Cameron to eject Cable from the cabinet at the earliest opportunity.
Cable infuriated grassroots Tory supporters on Friday in the aftermath of the humiliating AV vote by accusing the Conservatives of being "ruthless, calculating and very tribal".
Thomas, on the Tory grassroots website, ConservativeHome.com, says: "Cable... has been given more chances than any Tory would have in the circumstances. His unwillingness or inability to deliver is entirely down to him. For the sake of our long-term economic growth and political stability over the next Parliament, I believe he should be allowed to vent his spleen from the backbenches. He is a spent force – Cameron has nothing to fear from cutting the Cable."
Tonight on Channel 4, Andrew Rawnsley rubs more salt in the coalition wounds with a look behind the scenes at the first year of Clegg and Cameron's double-act in Downing Street, in the course of which Cameron gives the secret to beating Clegg at tennis:
"I think actually, technically, he is probably a better player than me. I was just a bit more wily."
• 'A Year inside Number 10', Channel 4, 8.0 pm ·
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